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Waynesboro putting bark in animal ordinance

September 18, 1999|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Waynesboro residents bothered by a neighbor's barking dog may now be able to file a complaint and have the neighbor hauled before a district justice, thanks to a proposed new borough ordinance.

The tough new law, which received preliminary approval on a 5-1 council vote this week, would fine violators up to $300 a day for creating a public nuisance.

Councilman Darrell Potts, who cast the lone dissenting vote, said enforcement of such a law would be difficult.

"The ordinance itself will become a nuisance," he said.

The ordinance would define the owner of a barking dog as one who creates or maintains a nuisance. It states that the barking does not have to go on for any specified length of time for the dog owner to be in violation. Even 10 minutes would be enough, according to the ordinance.

"Some people have a lower tolerance level, and some can take more than others," Potts said. "A dog could bark only once and it would be too much for some people."

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The proposed law states that a person complaining has to notify the owner of the dog in writing and specify the nature of the complaint. Complaint forms would be available in the Borough Hall.

The complainant would have to testify in the case.

For that reason alone Borough Manager Lloyd Hamberger doesn't think many residents will use the law.

Most citizens won't file a complaint because they don't want to get involved, he said.

Hamberger said the borough regularly gets complaints of barking dogs, but those complaining never want to sign a complaint. As a result, it's hard for police to take action, he said. The officer has to hear the dog bark and determine if it barks long enough to create a nuisance.

Hamberger said the ordinance offers citizens a route to solve their problem by enforcing the law themselves. He said if any citizen abuses the law by filing a frivolous complaint the district justice can dismiss it.

Councilman Alan Porter said he pushed for the ordinance after he received numerous complaints. He said only a few residents create problems with their dogs, but there is no local relief for those affected by them.

There is no borough or even county dog warden, he said. The state has animal control officers, but they don't get involved with barking dog complaints, Porter said.

He said Waynesboro's ordinance is fashioned after one in Chambersburg, Pa.

It comes up for a final vote in October.

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